Here’s yet another discussion-with-lawyers about fair use as it applies to blogging and other forms of web publishing.
Some traditional media companies (the AP, for example) are not happy with sites using even small pieces of their content, probably because the link back doesn’t produce much if any profits.
And the fact they generally have a bigger legal team than the rest of us means that, even if they’re wrong, they have the muscle to intimidate a settlement in their favor.
Probably the biggest problem with trying to determine what’s “fair use”, especially for those of us in education, is that the concept is very vaguely defined in American law.
At the risk of making someone at the Times legal department upset, here’s a clip from their article that hits right at what needs to be done.
Courts have not provided much of an answer. In the United States, the copyright law provides a four-point definition of fair use, which takes into consideration the purpose (commercial vs. educational) and the substantiality of the excerpt.
But editors in search of a legal word limit are sorely disappointed. Even before the Internet, lawyers lamented that the fair use factors “didn’t map well onto real life,” said Mr. Ardia, whose Citizen Media Law Project is part of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. “New modes of creation, reuse, mixing and mash-ups made possible by digital technologies and the Internet have made it even more clear that Congress’s attempt to define fair use is woefully inadequate.”
Almost the entire intellectual property system in the US needs a major overhaul.
However, one of the first topics Congress needs to address is writing a fair, balanced, and specific definition of fair use into law.
Cory Doctorow explains much better than I can why all of this is important, not just to avoid being sued, but for sustaining a vibrant and growing culture.